Ten years ago, it would have been an understatement to say that the Blackhawks were ahead of the curve in the NHL. They not only set the curve, but they were miles and miles ahead of everyone else. They won three Stanley Cups in six seasons and were the golden-child of Gary Bettman’s NHL. However, fast forward to 2020, the Hawks are staring at a third consecutive year of missing the playoffs and seemingly have no direction.
When Rocky Wirtz took over the Blackhawks, he was not afraid to make changes. The only thing he seemed to fear was staying the course that his father had created in Chicago. Rocky put the team on television, brought in John McDonough to run the franchise, and enlisted Joel Quenneville to coach the team. Rapid and needed change was what Wirtz brought to the Blackhawks 13 years ago. As the team is quickly slipping out of relevance, Wirtz should be the perfect leader to instill more needed change, right? Well, after his comments today, perhaps he is not.
What exactly makes Rocky Wirtz believe that? Why should Blackhawks fans have faith that Stan Bowman can get this team back on the right path? “They’ll figure it out.” Rocky, that is what one would best describe as blind faith. This management group may have played a large part in winning three championships, but what have they done lately?
Everything after the 2015 Stanley Cup has been downhill. Stan Bowman traded Artemi Panarin away for Brandon Saad. That one didn’t exactly work out. He overpaid Brent Seabrook to the level of completely handcuffing himself for years to come. It has been failure after failure and time is running out.
Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews will each be 32 years old next season. Duncan Keith will be 37 and Corey Crawford will be 36. The time to win again with this core has likely passed. Brent Seabrook will be returning from double-hip surgery and shoulder surgery. That won’t be an easy return for a 35-year-old. The future is not in the old cast of characters. So where exactly is the future?
Kirby Dach looks to be a nice player for the future. However, Bowman only got Dach on the Blackhawks through the magical luck of ping pong balls. Adam Boqvist looks promising on the blue line, but there isn’t much else defensively for the future, with Ian Mitchell’s future looking somewhat murky. Will the young defenseman sign out of Denver? Why hasn’t he already? Make the move, Bowman.
Bowman had a promising young defenseman in Henri Jokiharju but traded him to the Buffalo Sabres last offseason for inconsistent forward Alexander Nylander. That trade is yet another deal that hasn’t worked out for Bowman. He has had far too many misses and not enough hits since the last Stanley Cup. So where is the accountability?
Joel Quenneville seems to be the only member of the organization who was held accountable for the team’s slide. He was fired and Bowman remained. However, 16 months after Quenneville’s firing, things haven’t gotten any better for the Blackhawks. New head coach Jeremy Colliton has not taken the Blackhawks over the hump as Bowman envisioned.
That is a direct indictment on the general manager. The roster is the issue. Bowman is still relying too heavily on the old core. Those guys have too many miles on the tires and need some relief. This roster lacks depth and doesn’t allow that relief. That wasn’t Quenneville’s fault and it isn’t Colliton’s either. There is one man responsible, but he continues to escape the blame.
So what is next? Where do the Blackhawks go from here? That is the question that will continue to linger for a franchise that no longer has a direction. A franchise who used to have “One Goal,” winning the Stanley Cup, would now be thrilled just to sneak into the playoffs. That doesn’t sound like the Rocky Wirtz that Blackhawks fans knew from 2007-2015. However, it appears to be the Rocky Wirtz we need to come to know now. As long as Rocky is letting Stan Bowman run the Blackhawks, they will always be a team with no direction.